A “norm” is a value, belief or behavior considered by a group of people to be acceptable. Most often it is unwritten and learned by interacting and observation of other people. Most cultural groups or communities follow these same norms so we come to believe that is the standard way of behaving, therefore we shape our own behavior accordingly. Norms teach us what acceptable behavior should be and help us to fit in with others in our society.
According to the 2017 Student Health and Risk Prevention Survey, students in Utah County believed that about 18% of all students had used alcohol in the past 30 days. If they have a grade with 100 students, teens believe 18 of them are drinking. That seems like a lot of teens are drinking! The reality is, only 4.1% of students in Utah County (6-12 grade) drank in the last 30 days. In a grade with 100 students, only 4 drank in the last 30 days. That is still too many, but much, much lower than youth perceive!
A lot of this has to do with media. A lot of TV shows and movies show glamourous youth drinking and partying, when in reality most teens do not drink. If youth think a lot of their peers are drinking, and if they are learning how to behave based on what they think is normal, that false belief can actually cause increased drinking rates if it goes uncorrected.
The same is true for marijuana use, with only 4.3% of students in Utah County (6-12 grade) reporting past 30-day use while youth guessed that about 17% were using. With legalization of marijuana, the perceived danger or risk of using the substance recreationally will most likely continue to decline because our society is ‘normalizing’ the behavior.
To interrupt the potential shift in youth perception, it is critical to provide both youth and adults with accurate, unbiased information about the harms of marijuana use, especially on the developing brain of an adolescent. Reputable sources have found youth cannabis use affected learning and comprehension, lessened ability to concentrate and retain information, and even lowered overall IQ.
The marijuana industry is pushing heavily to normalize cannabis use, but the reality is that the vast majority of teens AREN’T getting high! Truthfully, most youth are making great choices so let’s encourage them to keep it up and remind them that “everybody’s doing it,” couldn’t be further from the truth.
Guest post by: Heather Lewis, ASUDC